Ford's modern 5.0L engine, known commonly by the "Coyote" code name bestowed on it during development, is creating a revolution of sorts in the hot rodding world and giving GM's ubiquitous "LS" engine family a run for its crate-engine money. It's the synergistic result of a number of factors, including affordability, accessibility and, most importantly, performance.
Sure, Ford Racing has offered Modular-based crate engines for years, but the Coyote engine (the powerplant from today's Mustang GT) is rated at 412 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque for a street price of less than $7,000. In fact, we've seen them offered online for about $6,300. You'd be hard-pressed to scare up a quality Windsor-based 302ci crate engine that makes comparable power for the same investment, and frankly, it just won't have the high-tech, contemporary cache of the Coyote.
Of course, the engine's relative affordability is only one part of the equation. Installing it is another, and that's where things get more involved. Conversion kits are popping up all the time, but most are for Fox bodies and SN-95s. Kits for classic Mustangs are fewer and farther between, but the tight confines of early Mustang engine compartments—including those pesky, space-robbing shock towers—makes the conversion challenging. Think of it as the modern-day version of shoehorning in a Boss 429, except for the fact that the all-aluminum, high-rpm Coyote engine weighs only a scant 444 pounds versus the Boss's roughly 635 pounds.
At a tick more than 29 inches wide, the Coyote is within an inch of the width of the big, bad semi-hemi Boss '9, while a 302 Windsor is only about 24 inches wide. That nearly half-foot of additional girth makes the swap all but impossible in 1966-and-earlier cars, and a tower-notching headache in later cars. Eliminating the shock towers with a more modern front suspension frees up much-needed elbow room for the heads and valve covers, but that involves serious surgery to the chassis.
Tom Izzo is no stranger to the fabrication and sheet-metal bending required to stuff a modern engine into an old car. His Chicago-area shop, Speed Inc., has a well-earned reputation for doing just that—ironically, it's known more for those LS conversions, however. That's OK, because Izzo has a strong penchant for the Blue Oval and his past projects include a '67 G.T. 500 clone powered by the supercharged powertrain from an '03 Mustang Cobra. And, hey, if Kar Kraft could shove Boss 429s into '69 Mustangs nearly 45 years ago, Izzo could do it with the Coyote today in his own '69 Mustang.
"The Coyote 5.0L is a landmark crate engine that gives Ford enthusiasts something they've been chasing for years," said Izzo. "We wanted to build this car to feel out the ins and outs of the installation, demonstrate our capabilities to our customers, and stay on the leading edge of a trend we expect will continue for years to come. The LS engines are everywhere in GM vehicles and other hot rods. This [engine] gives Ford builders the opportunity to build a high-tech, Ford-powered car with a powerful, cost-effective engine."
With the intent for a Coyote swap as the driving force for his project, Izzo began searching for the appropriate vehicle and scared up someone else's incomplete project vehicle on pro-touring.com. It already had some chassis work and other modifications performed; it was also touted as having virgin, rust-free sheetmetal.
"Surprisingly, that was the case," says Izzo. "The car had a couple coats of primer and signs of a couple of previous paintjobs beneath that, but other than a dinged-up lower valance, nothing was really damaged or rusted."
One of the reasons Izzo bought the car was the Heidt's Mustang II-type independent front suspension that was already installed, giving the car a modern suspension and prepping it for the Modular-based powertrain. The design, which features upper and lower control arms, not only provides contemporary responsiveness and control, but more importantly it enables the elimination of the intrusive shock towers inside the engine compartment.